Dr. Chelsea Murdock: Getting To Know The New Writing Center Director
“If you don’t do something with writing, you’re wasting your life.” That was a comment Dr. Chelsea Murdock received after writing fanfiction, and it changed her life. From shifting majors from voice to geology to finally English, Dr. Murdock is comfortable with exploring both the technical and creative parts of herself. With the fall of 2019 being her first semester as the new director of the Writing Center at Clemson, the Pearce Center for Professional Communication decided to learn more about Dr. Murdock. We delved into her background and professional past, her role as Writing Center Director and her plans for the future.
Dr. Murdock graduated from the University of Kansas with her Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Composition with an emphasis on indigenous rhetoric such as ledger art. She officially began working at the writing center at the University of Kansas as a graduate consultant. While working there, she filled various roles, such as being a peer group facilitator to acting as the marketing coordinator.
After grad school, Dr. Murdock went on to complete the Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellowship at Georgia Tech University. From her fellowship, she received a course release, which allowed her to work at the Naugle CommLab, and she eventually stepped into the role of assistant director. Her role at the communications center enabled her to work on innovative projects such as creating an exhibit space highlighting the voices of women in different fields for Women’s Action Month (WAM). Alternatively, Dr. Murdock also assisted the Industrial and Systems Engineering School’s senior design team on deliverables like interim final reports for clients.
When asked what it is like balancing the creative and analytical part of herself, she said it wasn’t as easy as it sounded. “It’s been a challenge to understand how I work through things. I view all things in relation and conversation because you don’t get the science without the human.
Clemson’s Writing Center supports graduate and undergraduate students with work spanning from first-year composition classes to doctorate materials. Sponsored and supported by the English Department, the Writing Center allows undergrad students to work as tutors called Writing Fellows. The Writing Fellows complete courses ENGL 4980 and ENGL 4981 that are particular to writing center theory and practice to prepare themselves for working with works spanning from lab reports to creative writing pieces.
“There is often this misconception that we are an editing service, which is not what we do,” said Dr. Murdock, “what we do instead is find common themes in how [the students] are using commas or adverbial phrases and show them that it might be more effective if they start to reframe the way that they are writing.”
The Director of the Writing Center handles all of the day-to-day operations, such as ensuring all shifts are covered, making sure there are a proper amount of appointments per semester and, most importantly, building relationships across campus. “I see everyone on campus as a stakeholder in the Writing Center, even though they may not see themselves like that,” said Dr. Murdock, ” Everyone writes, and we can support them with that here.”
A day in the life of the Writing Center director covers quite a few bases. Dr. Murdock hosts class visits, conducts workshops, manages outreach events and social media and even puts herself on the schedule. “I never want to lose touch with what is going on in the Writing Center. I’m not the kind of person who asks undergraduates to do something that I’m not willing to do myself.”
Dr. Murdock has two specific goals for the writing center: expanding online support and strengthening relationships on campus. She recognizes that the online programs at the institution are growing, and she wanted to support those students that have non-traditional schedules. “We want to make sure that the students who are holding down a full-time job or supporting a family are supported to the best of our abilities,” Dr. Murdock said. She also is looking to develop relationships on campus and make them more legible.
For more information about the Writing Center, you can visit www.clemson.edu/centers-institutes/writing/. If you are interested in making an appointment, you can visit this link. If you are interested in becoming a Writing Fellow, you are encouraged to email Dr. Murdock at firstname.lastname@example.org by Nov. 8.
By: Hannah Rohaley